India-China Stand-off: 1962 vs 2020

    04-Jul-2020
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China, by most assessments has become reckless, and is biting off more than it can chew, and our intellectuals/journalists can't seem to differentiate the thin line between transparency, as far as reporting is concerned, and subverting national interest.
- Group Captain MS Venkateshwar (Retd) 

India China War 1962 vs 2 
 
In the event of a skirmish like the one in 1962 - a full-fledged is unlikely - it is my considered view that we will prevail without doubt. The conclusion is not meant to be feel-good bravado, but based on logic amid the changed circumstances of 2020.
 
Political
 
The thought process of the political leadership of the time - in 1962 - and the belief that the 'principle of non-violence got us our independence' was Utopian - and a fallacy ! The events leading up to the final skirmish should have been anticipated - with all the warning signs - and preparations done accordingly ! Unfortunately, the situation was allowed to linger till it was beyond redemption within the time available, and the ensuing events forced our hand, till it was too late to retrieve and recover.
 
J&K, and issues of Tibet, were mishandled beyond repair - some of it may be attributed to hindsight, but Patel's repeated warnings on both the issues went unheeded, in fact were stonewalled. Unfortunately for the country, Patel died too soon after independence for the requisite consolidation to take place, as far as leadership was concerned - as an independent nation with the requisite checks and balances on the leadership - leaving only one undisputed leader from his peer group standing. Even the manner of his ascension was undemocratic - ironical considering the preaching of the Mahatma were contrary to his practise in the most important event affecting the future of the country. By democratic means it should have been Patel, since the heads of 12 out of the 15 provinces had cast the vote in favour of Patel, but Mr. Gandhi made him relinquish due to Mr. Nehru's blackmail. 
 
As far as the theory of dictatorship having been prevented by Mr. Nehru goes, the subsequent events would expose the obvious ! The country, since our ancient days, has always been a free society, and that has been our core civilisational strength. And the reason why we, as a civilisation have survived while most others have folded up. It is a different matter that our history writing has been held hostage to a cabal and hence, most of us - at least a lot of us - are quite unaware of and not very proud of too, of our heritage and culture.
 
The policy of non-alignment - while good in theory - wasn't really practical. But that is the political leadership's call, so it can't really be disputed, but it had a great effect in the final analysis, and therefore needs a mention. The international geopolitics of the time - in the aftermath of the WW-II - was not really factored into the decision making - an example is the the possibility of the country being offered nuclear capability - facilitated by the US - before China conducted its Lop Nor tests - was lost due to our intransigence.
 
Compare the Indian political system - and the discourse - with the Chinese, who had just come out successfully, out of a civil war/revolution, and the psyche can be gauged. One need not elaborate too much on that aspect.
 
Military
 
If the PM is on record as having said that the police is enough to do the job, of securing the borders - or words to that effect, quoted by Gen. Palit in his book, 'War in the High Himalayas' - then one can understand the priorities, attitude and orientation of the political class, especially when one considers the country's response to the J&K crisis soon after independence.
 
The details of the skirmish - of 1962 - as far as the military leadership of the time was concerned, is known to all, and I don't think it needs repetition, nor deserves any mention. While the troops did an exceptional job with the limited resources and lack of higher direction, the higher leadership left a lot to be desired which has been discussed and known to the general public ! The role of Gen. Thapar, Gen. Kaul and the rest does not merit a repetition. Considering the humiliation Gen. Thimayya suffered at the hands of the PM - the fiasco of his resignation and its withdrawal - it wasn't a surprise.
 
The most important effect was the attitude towards the use of the Air Force. It is indeed surprising that the mere mention of its use appeared to be anathema, owing to its inherently esacalatory character - part of Air Power doctrine - and the fear of the response of the PLAAF, was actually on the lines of the effect that Rommel had on the Allied Forces soldiers in the North Africa campaign (Auchinleck actually wrote a letter to his troops on the subject - refer Desmond Young's biography on Rommel, Page 1 of Chapter 2).
 
Details of requests for air support and the reasons for refusal was indeed shocking, that of the fear of the Chinese retaliation against the cities ! The number of times it was sought by the Army units, and refused by the leadership, both political and military, goes against the grain of defending a country with whatever resources one has ! It is purely a matter of self-respect and hence exposes the limitations of a pacifist mindset at the higher levels.
 
And all this cos of the psychological conditioning of the political leadership vis-a-vis the Chinese leadership and their system ! When viewed in the context of how the Vietnamese humbled them in 1970s, makes the meek surrender even more jarring.
 
Even while the war was on, there was a break in the operation in between, 'cos of the Chinese supply chain breaking down, which could have been used to a great advantage, but the use of the AF was never on the anvil. The use of the AF would have resulted in a different outcome altogether.
 
And common sense - as also self-respect - would dictate that we put up a fight with whatever resources we have before asking someone else for help which is what we did in approaching the US for help with their Air Force ! Why would - and why should - anyone, especially after what transpired till then, at the geopolitical level especially with the Americans?
 
And when we were being overrun, we requested the US to send their AF to fight our battle. The response was a logical one ! Of how do they send their fighters when we haven't used our AF. As the saying goes, it is the fight in the dog that matters, doesn't matter if one loses, but the manner of defeat is what matters ! Yet, they did agree to provide some transport ac support from one of their fleets, should be the 7th fleet, I think.
 
Considering the sequence of events till then, our response and behaviour - in asking for their AF - was quite shocking. While we were a battle hardened army, what with the varied experience of the WW-II, the psychological disorientation, and the fear, of the political leadership led us to our downfall ! The Chinese had been fighting to overthrow the regime in power, and 'communism as an ideology thrives on violence'.
 
Historically, we Indians are one of the fiercest warriors. The Battle of Saragarhi, the Battle of Rezang La, the valour of our soldiers in the two world wars - although acknowledged very belatedly - and many more, bear testimony. The Chinese, on the other hand, are not really great warriors. Their defeat at the hands of the Vietnamese exposed their abilities, although Vietnam is also a classic example of what 'WILL', as in willpower - even of a small nation with limited resources - can do !They rubbed the noses of two big powers to the ground.
 
The differences today in all these aspects are visible. The raid on insurgents across the Manipur border, the Uri surgical strikes were fine examples of taking the fight to the enemy and the political leadership walking the talk. And the Balakot strikes left no one in doubt across the world - except in India, with the opposition asking for proof - about the changed paradigm, and the political signaling that went across ! May be grudgingly, but a dispassionate analysis highlights the difference in approach of Pakistan after the 2016 surgical strikes, and the Balakot strikes ! If one doesn't wish to see and accept it for what it is, we are not being fair in our analysis, but then, we in India have been innured to this.
 
It is indeed a tragedy of the country that our political orientation - especially of the English-bred intellectuals as well as the media, vis-a-vis the vernaculars - holds us hostage, and sacrifices the country's interests at the altar of ideology even in matters of national security.
 
The de-hyphenation from Pak is now complete - which should have never been so actually, right from the beginning - given the difference in size in all aspects - and that's the reason why China is doing what it is. And without too much of effort on our part, we have been pitch-forked onto the high table of international relations by our sheer size ! Hence, it is attempting to nip a rising power in the bud, knowing fully well we missed the bus all these years, and are behind them in a lot of issues at the moment.
 
But the perennial attempts at belittling our own at every stage seems to indicate that a pathological hatred for an individual at the helm, has translated into an opportunity to ' cut our nose to spite our face', as far as the country is concerned. The snide remarks - against the country - on every aspect without an intellectual counter does not do justice to our responsibilities as informed citizens of the country especially in matters of national security. The legacy issues of history - like the repeal of Article 370 and the others - are the present consequences of the actions initiated to set right some of those. But they will pass into history and therefore, we must not be doing a post-mortem on the subject in 'live' mode.
 
China, by most assessments has become reckless, and is biting off more than it can chew, and our intellectuals/journalists can't seem to differentiate the thin line between transparency, as far as reporting is concerned, and subverting national interest (by some brazenly unsubstantiated reporting), in the name of freedom. We need to realise that with freedom comes great responsibility.
 
(The author is an alumni of National Defence Academy. After training he was commissioned into the fighter fleet of the IAF. He has extensively flown the MiGs and the Mirage-2000 in all possible roles and has commanded a Mirage-2000 Squadron)